On the second to last stop of the 2023 Gridiron Football Spring Tour, the Live Oak Eagles took on the Brusly Panthers, but played their spring game at Denham Springs High School as the school’s turf is being worked on right now in their stadium. Still, the Live Oak faithful showed out in Yellow Jackets territory in order to get their first look at the 2023 version of the Eagles. The biggest storyline for the Eagles heading into the 2023 season is that this will be the first year for former Mandeville head coach Hutch Gonzales. Like he did when he led the Skippers to the Quarterfinals back in 2019, Gonzales is looking to bring the Eagles the same level of success to the hungry program in the future.
“I love it. It’s a phenomenal school, a phenomenal community, phenomenal kids, a great administration. I couldn’t ask for anything better. They are hungry to win and are hungry to have a winning program. It’s exciting for me to shoulder that responsibility in trying to bring this program to the next era. They have been successful before and it’s time to bring it back to that. I think the kids want it. The parents want it. The school wants it. We got a phenomenal coaching staff and I am excited about it. I am ready to move on to the next phase in the summer.”Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales
As far as the first phase is concerned, the Eagles wrapped up the spring tying the Brusly Panthers at 8 a piece. Like most coaches would tell you, the former Southeastern Louisiana wide receiver standout feels that the Eagles did some good things but have a lot to work on heading into the summer.
“We had a good spring. Spotty weather to say the least and not having our turf field right now because we are getting a new turf surface has been tough, but I think it has been a good spring. We learned a lot about each other as a team and I think we have learned a lot about each other as coaches and players. I am excited about what we have. We could have been cleaner today, but it’s to be expected. It’s the first spring and they are going to get it cleaned up and fixed this summer.”Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales
Coach Gonzales gave both his quarterbacks Cayden Jones and Kingston Johnson a lot of reps and although there were some problems with the snap exchange for both quarterbacks, both players also showed a lot of flashes.
“As expected, there are both young guys that try to make plays. Sometimes, they do a little too much, but I thought they did well enough to get the job done. I would have liked to see it be a little bit cleaner from those guys, but they are young kids. One of them has gotten no high school reps and the other has gotten limited amount of reps so they are going to figure it out and they will be just fine.”Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales
Whoever is in at quarterback will have the luxury of throwing the football to one of the brightest young tight end talents in the state in Hayden Ray, who is a load to bring down at 6’3, 240 pounds scored the only touchdown of the scrimmage for the Eagles when he broke a tackle and outraced Panther defenders for the score.
“He’s special. Anytime you have a kid that is 6’3, 240 pounds that has soft hands, breaks tackles, and can run after the catch. It’s fun for us and fortunately, he is going to be a sophomore and we will get to watch him for the next three years. I’m excited to see what he has to offer all of these people that have come to watch him play.”Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales
After going through his first spring, Gonzales is excited to see what the summer has to offer for his Eagles.
“I think that if we can focus on finishing, I think that we did a lot of good things. I don’t think we were able to finish the way we wanted to. Finish plays, drives, finish through contact, finish possessions in the red zone, etc. I think if we can focus on finishing from this point forward, I think we can be pretty successful.”Live Oak Head Coach Hutch Gonzales
Meanwhile, the Brusly Panthers also got some good work today in the spring despite having limited days to work with since the spring game was moved up a couple of days up.
“The game was supposed to be scheduled on Saturday and then two days ago, had to shift and bump it up so we both had to miss a couple of practices that we would have had, but I thought our kids and their kids adapted to it and showed up to play. That was the first positive that I saw out of it. The kids never blinked and said that we will play on Thursday, Coach. That’s fine. Just put us on a bus. You come into these things, and you don’t know what to expect. You see yourself in practice and you don’t know how you are going to block, tackle, etc. Are we going to run to the football? We came out tonight. We missed a couple of tackles, but we ran to the football, got a couple of turnovers. We would have liked to get a stop right there and get a turnover on downs and ended the ball game 8-0.”Brusly Head Coach Hoff Schooler
Playing a Class 5A team in the spring was a good measuring stick for the Panthers and it really gave Coach Schooler and the rest of the coaches something to look forward to and work with once summer hits.
“I thought it was good. I thought Live Oak’s got a good football team. Their guys are well coached, and the players do what they ask them to do. It was a good go for us to see a team that is physical up front and we try to match that physicality. It doesn’t matter to us how many A’s you got behind your name. We need this competition. It makes us better and so we have some good film off of it and we will get those things corrected throughout the summer.”Brusly Head Coach Hoff Schooler
Competing against teams up in class is something that the Panthers have been used to as they moved up in class last season from 3A and 4A. Brusly adjusted well as Schooler led the Panthers to their fifth straight playoff appearance with a 6-5 record last year. Now, approaching the season, Schooler feels that his team has adjusted to their new district and is ready to compete for a district title and then some for 2023.
“Last year, you go in and there is a whole new set of opponents. For a long time, you are in 3A with U-High, Madison Prep, Parkview Baptist, all those guys and you get used to each other and what they are doing. You get a list of a whole new set of opponents. Obviously, we dealt with injuries last year, but all in all, a lot of young guys got to play because of those injuries and those young guys are back now. They are now 25-30 pounds heavier, faster, and stronger. They have some experience now after taking their lumps. They will build on that experience and will try to show it this season.”Brusly Head Coach Hoff Schooler
In terms of some of those young guys that are more experienced for the coming season, there were some players that stood out. Cordell Oxley had an electrifying run in which he looked like he was bottled up, but escaped on his way to a long touchdown run. Then, there was Cody Loupe, who is one of the most versatile tight ends that you will find in South Louisiana as not only he will line up on the edge, but he also got a lot of looks at fullback as he has the ability to run through contact. Finally, linebacker Alvin Watts stood out with his play as he made a big hit on a Live Oak Eagles running back while also notching an interception thus ending an Eagles threatening drive. Just like the Eagles, there were a lot of positives to look forward to for the Panthers.
“In the scripted part, Cody Loupe had a big catch there and an explosive play. Then, we come back and Cordell Oxley broke a long run right there. I saw Coy Purpera was playing quarterback as well. He had a couple of good throws particularly the one on the sidelines in the two-minute drill. I am happy with those guys. The thing that won’t show up that nobody sees is there were five guys on the offensive line blocking somebody and were creating some creases there in the running game. That was something which has been a big focus for us the last couple of weeks and that will continue to be a focus for us. We are nowhere perfect, but it’s a good start.”Brusly Head Coach Hoff Schooler
It’s a good start for the Panthers, but Schooler wants to see even more improvement from the Panthers heading into the fall, especially continued improvement in getting bigger and stronger.
“We are fixing to get in that weight room and push around some weight. We will run around the grass a little bit. We are fixing to put some guys underneath the bar and see if we can squat down with some weight and get stronger. That’s building the mindset of your team in being physical, tough, and preparing yourself for the season so you can avoid those injuries. It’s all going to happen right now so the next couple of months, it is going to be fun.”
“They will see a more experienced team than they saw last year. Hopefully, they will see a bigger and stronger team than they saw last year. They will see a group of guys that are excited to play with each other. You see them in practices. You see them in the locker room and the weight room. They are excited to be there with each other. They will get after each other, but they support each other and they are all pulling in the same direction.”Brusly Head Coach Hoff Schooler
Both coaches will be working with their teams in the summer in order to get to top notch shape as the Live Oak Eagles and the Brusly Panthers will be looking for big results after a short, but successful spring.
Check out all of the photos from Live Oak’s spring game against Brusly below! You may download and upload these photos anywhere you like, but make sure to give Gridiron Football USA credit for the photos!
Check out the rest of the Spring Tour stops below!
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